From the Bird’s Nest: How Mean is the Green?
There's a lot of excitement around South Louisiana over the success that Louisiana has had through the first six games of the 2011 football season.
But, guess what? They're excited in Denton as well.
Dan McCarney has taken over as the head man of the Mean Green. And, like Louisiana's Mark Hudspeth, he's trying to change the culture in Denton, Texas.
The problem so far for North Texas is, McCarney had a lot less to work with than Mark Hudspeth did.
But, McCarney is making progress. North Texas has won twice this year, including a resounding win over Florida Atlantic last week. Because of the Texas Rangers and some in-climate weather, only 13,000 showed up at Apogee Stadium for the game.
Those that missed it missed a pretty good show.
There is absolutely no doubt the Mean Green are a better team than what the Cajuns have seen the last four years. And, what makes them better, besides a new mindset, is a new commitment to defense.
If you look at UNT statistically, they've allowed a bunch of points and a bunch of yards. But, when you play Alabama and high-powered offenses like Houston and Tulsa, that's going to happen. The defensive statistics I look at that makes the Green meaner than the past are the number of quarterback sacks and tackles for loss that North Texas has been able to compile. And, North Texas, like the Cajuns, has done a good job with their margin of turnovers. Their offense hasn't been great, but they haven't turned it over a lot.
Lance Dunbar is a good one. And, he has to be a point of emphasis for the Cajuns' defense this week. The Cajuns simply can't allow Dunbar to make big plays for the offense. If Louisiana does that, they'll be in pretty good shape.
Then there are the intangibles. We can talk about Mark Hudspeth's motivational skills from now until Tuesday. But the reality is, this game is coming after an emotional win over Troy. This game is Homecoming, which provides its own distractions. To suggest the Cajuns will be at the same emotional pitch this week as they were a week ago would be foolish.
And, that's the biggest concern for this week.
This isn't FAU, who the Cajuns seniors had never beaten. This isn't Troy, the five-time defending champions who the Cajuns seniors had never beaten.
This is North Texas, who the Cajuns seniors have never lost to.
I think the Cajuns are the better team. And, I think the Cajuns will have enough focus to win their sixth straight game and claim bowl eligibility in a year when six wins is finally going to mean something.
I also think they'll work like hell to accomplish it.
Prediction: UNT +9